Dr. Hurlbutt's Highly Peculiar Online Calendar

August 2011

(National Inventors' Month)

August 1: Civic Holiday (Canada). While not a Canadian federal holiday, the first Monday in August is observed in much of Canada under various guises to provide a mid-summer break.

August 2: The United States Congress voted to establish a decimal currency on this day in 1792, when it passed "An Act Establishing a Mint and Regulating the Coins of the United States." Although the Continental Congress before it had resolved to accept a proposal by Thomas Jefferson for such a currency in 1785, nothing significant had been done in the meantime to implement it. The new act specified the issuance of four coins: the five-dollar gold eagle, the silver dollar, the disme (dime), and the cent, although in practice the half-dollar, quarter-dollar, half-disme, and half-cent would also be issued.

August 3: The twenty-ninth annual Testicle Festival will begin in Clinton, Montana. Lasting five full days, this event provides visitors with an opportunity to consume as many deep-fried bulls' testicles as they can stomach. Judging by past years, it will also be the occasion of a great deal of heavy drinking and public nudity.

August 4: The notorious double axe-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden took place in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892, leading to the trial (and acquittal) of Andrew's daughter, Lizzie Borden, as well as to the deathless verse:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

August 5: The Pink Garlic Fair takes place each year on the first Friday of August in Lautrec, France. Pink garlic soup is served, and there are various garlic-related competitions. Pink garlic is reputed to be sweeter than the more familiar white variety.

A kiss can be a comma, a question mark, or an exclamation point. - Mistinguett (Jeanne-Marie Bourgeois, 1875-1956).

August 6: The Holy Roman Empire met its demise in 1806, when the abdication of Emperor Francis II during the Napoleonic Wars brought about the final end of an institution Voltaire famously remarked was "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire."

August 9: Facing well-deserved impeachment, President Richard M. Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974, after audio tapes from the Oval Office proved his direct involvement in the coverup of the Watergate break-in. The damning tapes finally cracked the support of Nixon's fellow Republicans in Congress, who up until then had largely held firm behind him, despite extensive evidence of numerous illegalities and abuses by his administration.

August 13: Nikola Petrović assumed the Montenegrin throne as Prince Nicholas I in 1860 following the assassination of his uncle, Prince Daniel II. During his golden jubilee celebration in 1910, Nicholas declared himself king, but the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918 ultimately removed him from the throne. Innovations during his reign included the introduction of a Montegrin currency in 1906.

Archelaus Pop Quiz

The collecting of human heads in nineteenth-century Montenegro:

(For the correct answer, see the bottom of this page.)

August 14: International forces of the "Eight-Nation Alliance" marched into the Chinese capital of Beijing in 1900 to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. This cartoon by the French artist Caran D'Ache (Emmanuel Poiré, 1858-1909) appeared in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro. The soldiers depicted (from right to left) are Russian, German, French, American (Uncle Sam), Japanese, Austro-Hungarian, and British (John Bull). The eighth member of the alliance, Italy, is missing. Reaching for a fat pear labeled "Shanghai," John Bull muses, "Who knows? Maybe I'll be thirsty soon."

Cartoon by Caran D'Ache from Le Figaro.

August 17: The first fully animated film, Émile Cohl's whimsical Fantasmagorie, was released in 1908. Consisting of 700 frames and running for less than two minutes, the film has the appearance of drawings done in white chalk on a blackboard, but Cohl actually achieved this effect by filming black drawings on white paper and then reversing the negative.

August 18: The worst hyperinflation in world history came to an end with the introduction of the Hungarian forint in 1946. The new currency was exchanged for the old at a rate of 1 forint for 400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengő. At the peak of the hyperinflation, prices had been doubling approximately every fifteen hours.

August 19: A Pontiac Grand Am packed with twenty naked Pentecostals crashed into a tree in Vinton, Louisiana, on this date in 1993, as the driver attempted to evade police. The group, which included three pregnant women and five children, had fled the town of Floydada, Texas, some 550 miles away, on August 17, telling relatives that "the devil was after them and Floydada was going to be destroyed" if they remained there. Initially travelling in several vehicles, the panicked Pentecostals made their way south to San Antonio, Texas, only to conclude that it was a "devil town" and continue eastward. It was in San Antonio, apparently, that they removed their clothing, believing it to be possessed. By the time the agitated believers reached Vinton, they had also abandoned all but one of their cars. After being flagged down for speeding, the driver (one of two ministers in the group) attempted to drive away, only to encounter the tree. The naked passengers then slowly emerged from the vehicle and began religious chants. "Didn't have a stitch of clothes on," reported the police chief in Vinton. "I mean, no socks, no underwear, no nothin'." No one was seriously injured in the crash, but the car was totaled.

August 20: The Voyager 2 space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1977. It was followed sixteen days later by Voyager 1. The twin probes, which are now hurtling through the outermost edge of our solar system in a race to interstellar space, were fitted with identical gold discs featuring a message of peace and friendship from the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim (1918-2007). The fact that Waldheim, as a Wehrmacht intelligence officer in the Balkans during the Second World War, had almost certainly been complicit in the persecution of civilians makes his selection as Earth's ambassador to the galaxy regrettable and embarrassing. Alas, given this planet's recent history, it is probably not so inappropriate as one might prefer.

August 21: In a radio transmission intercepted by British intelligence in 1941, German Police Battalion 56 submitted a requisition for 396 steel helmets, 376 pairs of handcuffs, and 415 swimsuits.

August 22: King Richard II of England was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

August 23: The Volcanalia, a Roman festival honoring Volcanus (Vulcan), the god of destructive fire. As huge bonfires and heavy drinking were traditional features of this celebration, the Romans eventually chose to build their temples to Volcanus outside the city limits.

August 24: Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, destroying the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

August 25: In 1835 the New York Sun began a serialized article entitled, "Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel, L.L.D., F.R.S., &c. at the Cape of Good Hope." Using a powerful new telescope built on "an entirely new principle," the eminent British astronomer had reportedly detected life on the moon. The lunar species, minutely described, included small bison, blue unicorns, large beaver-like creatures that dwelled in huts, and bat-winged humanoids that built temples. The elaborate hoax — which the Sun never acknowledged as such — is said to have caused something of a sensation among the more credulous sectors of the reading public, although the extent to which anyone really took it seriously is the subject of some dispute.

August 27: After months of intense seismic activity and escalating eruptions, the volcanic island of Krakatoa, located in the strait between Java and Sumatra, underwent a series of four catastrophic explosions in 1883, so large they could be heard 3,000 miles away. The immediate devastation was total, causing all but a tiny portion of the island to vanish entirely. The wider devastation from pyroclastic flows and tsunamis, included at least 36,000 deaths over a wide area, and possibly many more.

August 29: On the orders of the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, the last sovereign ruler of the Incan empire, Atahualpa, was strangled with a garrote in 1533, shortly after having converted to Catholicism to avoid being burned alive.

August 30: Birth of Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, in 1797.

August 31: Feast Day of St. Raymond Nonnatus. A Mercerdarian priest in thirteenth-century Spain, Raymond is often depicted with his mouth padlocked shut, because he suffered this indignity at the hands of the Moors, who tired of listening to him preach.

Answer to Archelaus Pop Quiz: D) all of the above.


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